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The science of vaping: Study shows nicotine may have anti-aging effects on the brain

Posted by Matt Rowland on

A team of researchers focusing on the potential mental health benefits of nicotine is now suggesting that this often-misunderstood substance may hold secret, anti-aging properties for the brain.  To be clear, scientists have known for decades that nicotine has some very special characteristics.

For example, ask any smoker, and they will confirm.  Nicotine suppresses the appetite.  If nicotine can trick the brain into thinking that it isn’t hungry, then perhaps it possesses other magical mental capabilities, as well.

This ideology is the basis for a new study from researchers of the Texas A&M College of Medicine.  Led by Dr. Ursula Winzer-Serhan, the research team drew considerable criticism after publishing their findings.  Many in the academic and medical communities accused the scientists of endorsing and promoting smoking to improve brain functions.  However, the truth is far less devious.

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Nicotine is a natural-occurring chemical found in such everyday foods as tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant.  And while tobacco cigarettes and cigars happen to contain nicotine as well, most medical experts agree that it’s not the nicotine in cigarettes that causes all the problems.  It’s the tar and chemicals in combustible cigarettes that produce carcinogenic smoke.

The Texas A&M team suggests that ingestion of nicotine for its possible health benefits does not necessarily require people to smoke.  In fact, they firmly believe the opposite.

Overview of the Texas A&M vaping and nicotine study

The Texas A&M study is entitled, Evaluation of Chronic Oral Nicotine Treatment in Food Consumption, Body Weight and [125I] Epibatidine Binding in Adult Mice. The report and all its findings is available via the Open Access Journal of Toxicology, The underlying theory involves the idea that nicotine may be a potent neuroprotective agent for the brain. 

If proven to be true, nicotine consumption may slow the aging process of human brain functions.  However, the scientists first wanted to test their theories on non-human test subjects.  So, the Texas A&M team selected a group of furry and friendly mice.

  • The mice were divided into three distinct groups: Low-Nicotine, Medium-Nicotine, and High-Nicotine consumption levels.
  • Next, the researchers would mix tiny drops of liquid nicotine extract into the mice’s drinking water.
  • A control group of mice was given only pure, nicotine-free drinking water.
  • Meanwhile, the mice would be attached to a series of neurotransmitters while the scientists monitored their brain activities.

What the researchers discovered is that the low- and medium-nicotine mice exhibited so significant signs of diminished appetite, weight vacillations, or fluctuations in neuroactivity. However, those mice that received the higher doses of liquid nicotine ate less, gained less weight, and registered increased brain activity. 

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They also witnessed no substantial increases in anxiety levels for either of the three control groups of mice.  In fact, the more nicotine that the mice ingested, the less anxious they became overall. It was this data acquired from the neurotransmitters that leads the researchers to theorize that nicotine may have a more positive effect on the aging process of the brain than the scientific community may currently believe.

Still, the researchers wanted to make perfectly clear that they are definitely not endorsing smoking as a method of ingesting nicotine.

 “Even if these weren’t very preliminary results, smoking results in so many health problems that any possible benefit of the nicotine would be more than cancelled out. However, smoking is only one possible route of administration of the drug, and our work shows that we shouldn’t write-off nicotine completely.”

The Texas A&M scientists also suggest that more research in this field of study are warranted before any definitive conclusions can be made.  But the results of this first study seem to be very promising, and they plan to continue forward.  The next project will involve the testing of nicotine for “potential anti-ageing effects using aged animal models.”   Only older mice need apply.

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